Ok, how many of you assumed that Friday Night Lights was just Dawson’s Creek with football?
Yeah, me too. I kept seeing the commercials for the show and I can honestly say, I had no interest. Then I found out that I was going to get the complete first season on DVD for review and I immediately assigned it to someone else. But as fate would have it, the DVD arrived too late for me to send it out. So guess who got stuck watching 22 episodes of Friday Night Lights this weekend?
That’s right, me, and I’m glad I did because after watching the pilot, I was like, “This is the best fucking show.”
The hour-long drama centers around the small town of Dillon, Texas, where high school football is more than just an interest, it’s an obsession. Every Friday night when there’s a game, everyone in the town shows up — even the stores close for the evening. And when there’s an away game, half the town shows up to be there to support their team. The members of the Dillon Panthers are treated like heroes and, as could be expected, are given academic leeway and most times, have other students do their schoolwork for them.
Enter Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), who just moved with his wife Tami (Connie Britton) and their 15-year-old daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden) to Dillon so he can take the head coaching position. Coach Taylor has been handed a winning team, led by a star quarterback Jason Street (Scott Porter), which Taylor himself had coached since childhood.
But then a tragedy strikes and the picture perfect football team begins to crumble. We realize that this isn’t a show where every episode will end with in a glorified win for the team. It’s not about cheerleaders, and prep rallies, and perfect spoiled teens. It’s about overcoming adversities, dealing with societal pressures, race relations, and of course, performance-enhancement drugs.
What makes this show stand out from the typical small-town high school drama is how Coach Taylor, and his wife (who takes a job as the school’s guidance counselor) handle all these issues. The townspeople let him know from the beginning that losing — for any reason — will not be tolerated. What these people don’t realize is that while Taylor might seem like a meek man, he will not be pushed around. While the Coach loves football as much as everyone else, unlike everyone else, he cares about the personal welfare of the boys he’s coaching.
It’s the Taylors’ refusal to submit to the hive mind of the town that gives us hope that the members of this team will have a fighting chance off the field as well as on.
Watching a whole season at once I was pressed to find something I didn’t like about the show. I like football, but I don’t love and I definitely would not have been able to sit through a season if it was all sports talk. You don’t need to even like the sport to enjoy this show. Matter of fact, there’s a “money back guarantee” sticker right on the DVD box. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a thing, but apparently, if you don’t like the show, they’ll give you your money back if you fill out the forms at http://www.fnlguarantee.com/. That’s some marketing.
My only issue is that there’s a lot of shaky zoom-in camera work and quick scene cuts, which makes it hard to follow. Luckily, that is only in the first few episodes, so don’t be discouraged.
The five-disc set for Season One comes with all 22 episodes, most of which include about five deleted scenes per episode. There’s also “Behind the Lights,” a look behind the making of Friday Night Lights, which interviews some of the cast as well as with executive producers Peter Berg (who directed and wrote the 2004 feature film from which the show was adapted) and Brian Grazer (who produced A Beautiful Mind and the TV show 24). From what I can tell, there was supposed to be episode commentary, which would have been a great addition to this set, but that’s not included in this edition.
Season 2 of Friday Night Lights premieres Friday, October 5 at 9pm EST on NBC and I’ll definitely be watching.